Op-Ed: California may ban new oil wells near homes. Let’s eliminate the existing problem while we’re at it

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A few months ago, we both joined Jennifer Seibel Newsom, California First partner at the Boys & Girls Club in Wilmington, to show her the places where oil wells are toxic, where kids play, learn, and live. Then late last month, Governor Gavin Newsom heeded the demands of frontline residents while he stood on the same site and plan announced To stop new oil drilling operations within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, playgrounds and hospitals.

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This draft regulation is a big step for California’s future away from toxic fossil fuels. But the battle is not over.

Neighborhood drilling is a problem that plagues millions of California residents—who are disproportionately black, latinx, Asian immigrants, indigenous and low-income people. and remains the home of one of Los Angeles The country’s largest urban oil fields,


Newsom’s plan is important, but it leaves some important gaps to be resolved. This draft regulation will only prevent Future California residents within 3,200 feet of oil wells, with no such assurance for thousands of people living around existing Well If regulators and elected officials do not tighten and strengthen this health rule, communities like Wilmington will continue to suffer the effects of dangerous drilling. We need strong action to stop toxic pollution from existing wells and eventually phase out the extraction of fossil fuels across the state.


Because the truth is this: no community should be treated as a sacrificial area. This means the governor must end drilling of neighborhoods everywhere.

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For years, scientists and public health experts have warned that exposure to pollution from fossil fuel extraction increases the hardships faced by families and workers. Increased risk of asthma, respiratory disease, premature birth, cancer And Even dying from COVID-19, These experts say a “jerk” is needed to create distance between our homes and schools and toxic oil and gas extraction sites to protect them from these harms. But while the science has been clear for almost a decade, and while Colorado, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming already need at least some shock, our state’s public policy has lagged behind.

It was not easy to reach this moment either. It garnered 40,000 public comments; Dedication from community residents, leaders and climate activists; Massive public support displayed by multiple choice, two legislative efforts narrowly defeated by oil profiteers in Sacramento; major decisions in City and county of Los Angeles to phase out oil drilling, years of engagement with regulators; multiple toxic seizures; And decades of cancer, asthma and neurological diseases were tolerated by frontline communities.

Having arrived at this draft regulation, which is open for public comment By December 21, the Newsom administration must endorse the strongest possible outcome. This is meant not only to resist efforts by the oil and gas industry to dilute the 3,200-foot buffer zone requirement for new wells, but also to extend a proposed rule to eliminate existing wells. We know oil and gas executives will fight to undermine this rule with scare tactics and misinformation. Therefore the administration needs to be determined to protect the communities from these dangers.

This is an opportunity to advance climate, environmental and economic justice. As our state moves beyond oil, we must also support communities and workers in transition – by investing in safety net programs, job training and good union jobs that make communities and workers whole. Creating the necessary public health and safety protections for all Californians is the only way to a healthier, greener and more equitable future.

Jane Fonda is an activist and Academy Award winning actor. Darryl Molina Sarmiento is executive director of Communities for a Better Environment and a member of the Solidarity in Voices Against Oil in the Neighborhood coalition.

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